Still courtesy of TIFF.
2010 marks the year cult icon Takashi Miike graduated from his perennial spot in the Midnight Madness lineup to the coveted Masters club, and boy does he earn the honour with 13 Assassins. One of Japan’s most prolific filmmakers, Miike toned down his often cartoonish violence to tell a taut period tale that would do Kurosawa proud.
When a sadistic young lord threatens to plunge Japan back into the Age of War, a rogue government official enlists a dozen samurai to end his life before he can assume power. Some members of the team are relegated to background filler, but those that step to the forefront are fantastic, each justifying their betrayal of a core tenet of bushido in their own ways. Not a fan of samurai? Well neither is the impish hunter who joins the crew as the thirteenth member, and whose constant barbs and insults lend a welcome element of humour to the solemn film.
The band of renegades is set to the seemingly impossible task of besieging the lord and his entourage of two-hundred bodyguards, and they do so with remarkable cunning. After their enemies are maneuvered into a small mountain village, the samurai use an elaborate system of traps to confuse and divide their prey before the real fun begins. The expertly crafted climactic clash—forty-five minutes long—will keep an audience on the edge of their seats the entire way through.